Judge concerned as 2 more ‘fraudulent’ deeds struck from Land Registry

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Justice Frank Seepersad. –

TWO more property deeds have been ordered to be struck from the land registry of the Registrar General’s office as a High Court judge has deemed them fraudulent.

Justice Frank Seepersad ordered the deeds to a property at Second Street, Barataria, belonging to the mother of former permanent secretary Cheryl Blackman to be set aside.

As a result, the property, which was purportedly sold on two occasions, will remain with Blackman, who is the executor of her mother Theresa Thompson-Hill’s estate.

Seepersad said what was alarming was the frequency of land-fraud claims.

“Frightening and foreboding,” were the words he used to describe it, and expressed hope Attorney General Reginald Armour would consider an urgent amendment to section 21 of the Land Registration Limitation Act to provide clarity on the issue of bona-fide purchase of value.

He declared that for the purpose of the section to apply, a “bona fide purchaser” has to be someone who had a legal interest. The judge said the section, as it now stood, could not reasonably apply to a situation where no title passed because the conveyance in question was the result of a forgery.

Seepersad also called for the proclamation of the 2020 Registration of Deeds Act (RDA), as he pointed out there was no common-law or statutory requirement that gave the court the power to extend the time for registration of a deed.

In Blackman’s lawsuit, two deeds for her mother’s property were executed in 2004 and 2007 but only registered in 2015.

He said the amendments to the RDA introduced the concept of a “registrable document” to create, transfer or convey any interest in land and included a conveyance of land required to be by deed.

The RDA also now mandates a contract of sale to be registered by an attorney who prepared it within 14 days and for an application to be made to the Registrar General for late registration. The act also sets out further requirements for the registration of a deed or its late registration.

He said once the legislation was proclaimed, it would prevent cases in which deeds are registered many years after they are executed.

“While proactive (the passage of the legislation) the lack of proclamation in this, being the ‘land of fete and fraud,’ needs to be addressed as a matter of extreme urgency.”

He said the discretion to extend the time to register a deed should rest with the court and not the Registrar General.

Just as another judge did on Monday, Seepersad ordered the Registrar of the Supreme Court to send the case file to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of Police to determine whether charges should be instituted against two of the defendants in the case who purportedly purchased the property from Thompson-Hill and sold it for $400,000.

In her lawsuit, Blackman maintained her mother never sold the Barataria property or transferred the title to anyone in 2005.

She also maintained that the 2007 deed made out to the other person as the owner of the land was fraudulent, as her mother never had dealings with either.

The two – who were named as the first and second defendants – did not defend the claim and were ordered to pay costs and repay the third and fourth defendants – Ronald Ramkalawan and Frederick Bonoc de Jesus Jr – the $400,000 they paid for the property.

Seepersad urged the two men to report the first and second-named defendants to the police.

Both men testified at Tuesday’s virtual trial and the judge said since no fraud was pleaded against them, he found nothing from their explanation to convince him they were engaged in improper conduct.

“They entered into the transaction on legitimate business.”

He also found Blackman a forthright witness as well as the attorney, Adrian Alexander, who testified that did not prepare the two deeds, nor was it his signature on the instruments. Seepersad said the court held as fact that Alexander did not prepare the conveyances.

He also said it was not lost on the court that neither the first or second defendant came to court to provide evidence to support the bona fides of the transactions and found that the particulars of fraud argued by Blackman against them had been made out.

“The court also finds that the fraud did not end there but the fraudulent signature of the attorney was appended on the conveyances.”

He said there was no evidence that the first defendant paid any money to Thompson-Hill for her property, nor was there evidence that the first defendant sold it to the second defendant.

Blackman was represented by attorney Fulton Wilson.

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